By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
A LOCAL environmentalist is working to be identified as a victim in ongoing pollution proceedings against Carnival Corporation in a US court.
Sam Duncombe, co-founder of reEarth, is one of three people behind an emergency motion filed in the US last week and will likely learn the fate of her efforts today.
Carnival Corporation’s Princess Cruises pled guilty in 2016 to several charges related to pollution and falsifying records. The corporation paid a $40 million fine and was placed on probation. The corporation is now facing charges that it violated its probation.
According to the Miami Herald, the charges include falsifying records, communicating with the US Coast Guard through a back channel, failing to give enough authority to the company’s environmental compliance officer, rushing to clean up ships ahead of visits by a court-appointed monitor and dumping plastic into Bahamian waters.
Carnival and federal prosecutors have reached a settlement agreement on the charges and Senior US District Judge Patricia Seitz is expected today to decide whether to accept the settlement or reject it and set a probation revocation hearing.
Ms Duncombe and two American environmentalists are hoping to intervene before the judge makes that decision.
Their emergency motion they filed last week says: “The criminal behaviour of Princess Cruise Lines LTD and its parent Carnival Corporation has caused significant harm to the environment and the individuals and communities that depend upon a clean environment for their livelihood and recreation. These victims encircle the United States, as Carnival’s activities span from Florida to Alaska, and from California to Maine.
“Victims of Carnival’s environmental crimes were not present or heard in proceedings resulting in the original plea agreement between the US government and Carnival, which may have contributed to the compromise being weaker than victims believe was necessary to bring about meaningful change in the corporate culture. The potential failure of the original plea agreement is aptly demonstrated by Carnival’s ongoing criminal violations of environmental laws, reflected in the reports of the court appointed monitor, the government’s efforts to revoke Carnival’s probation and ultimately the present proceedings. This court should not consider another compromise between the government and Carnival without meaningful participation by the victims of Carnival’s environmental crimes.”
Ms Duncombe said in the motion: “Carnival Corporation makes me feel like a second-class citizen in my own country: someone whose health, livelihood and community are an easily ignored inconvenience for the multi-billion-dollar international corporation.”
The applicants are not seeking financial compensation but want more transparency in the case and for their views and perspectives to be considered.
Yesterday, Ms Duncombe told The Tribune the government has taken a far too hands-off approach to the issue.
“This company got caught,” she said. “My worry is what measures are the government considering? They talk about an Environmental Protection Act. You know how long one has been sitting around gathering dust? But if this was something that was necessary for the WTO or OECD, they’d be all over it. ‘Spy Bill’, the NIA, all these things being pushed through but not environmental protection. This is not acceptable. They need to do something concrete about the situation.”
She was referring to the National Crime Intelligence Agency Bill, passed in the House of Assembly last week, and the Interception of Communications Act, passed in both Houses of Parliament last year.
Ms Duncombe pointed to a 1993 report in which Immigration Minister Brent Symonette, then a senator, called for a $1 million fine on cruise ship operations caught dumping waste in Bahamian waters.
“I’m calling on the now minister of immigration to say, ‘let’s do something about it,’” she said. “In 1993 he talked about fining cruise ships $1m for dumping so I’m saying, let’s do it, put proper procedures on board. How do we quantify the cost of the damage to the ocean when we don’t know what’s happening?”
Attorney General Carl Bethel has said an environmental protection law will come by the end of summer.
Ahead of a US judge’s decision about whether to reject Carnival’s settlement agreement with US federal prosecutors, the corporation filed letters of support from politicians, business associations and non-profit organisations. According to the Miami Herald, the letters touted Carnival’s economic impact and charitable donations ahead of today’s hearing.